Kentucky is expected to yet again have a monstrous defensive line this coming season.
One player that will be leading the charge up front defensively for the Cats is redshirt junior Josh Paschal. Last season, he was playing as an outside linebacker, totaling 9.5 tackles for loss (second on the team). This fall, however, the cancer survivor will be transitioning to defensive end — a position he feels comfortable in.
“I feel good about it. It’s my natural position,” Paschal said. “It’s helping me with the defensive line, helping me with the young guys as well.”
Speaking of the young guys — Kentucky has a bunch of them up front, and Paschal says you don’t have to worry about pushing them to compete.
“The freshman — I’m proud of each and every one of them so far. They came in ready. You don’t have to install that work ethic in them,” he said. “I think it’s gonna be a domino effect (for future recruits).”
As part of having young guys coming in like 2020 five-star defensive lineman Justin Rogers, the Cats will have a crazy amount of depth up front unlike anything they have experienced before. Josh Paschal again spoke of the work ethic that the backup linemen have, and feels confident many of them can jump right into a game and compete.
“It’s great having a lot of guys at the defensive line. We have a competitive nature, and we’re competing each and every day,” he said. “If they see us making a mistake, then they can go in and correct it.”
Another key member of the front-7 for the Cats that will be wreaking havoc defensively is senior outside linebacker Boogie Watson. The SEC’s leading sack returner is used to being at the same position as teammate Josh Paschal, but even though Paschal is moving back to defensive end, he feels they can still play off each other in advantageous way on the field.
“Me and Josh (Paschal), we have a great feel on what to expect from each other, because he heard the coaching tips from Coach (Brad) White last year,” Watson said. “I think us working together, him knowing what the outside guy is looking for, me knowing vice versa, it definitely I think is helping.”
Knowing he will have a vital role on the defense this coming season, Watson sought out the advice of former National Defensive Player of the Year and UK linebacker Josh Allen for advice on how to go about playing this fall, and what it takes to get into the NFL.
“He said guys can use this year, and I think I’m one of those guys,” he said. “I have a chance to make it to the next level, and if I play the way I need to play this year, play the right way I know to play, I think I give myself a good chance to feel of my dream.”
In the same way that Josh Allen was a teacher for Watson, he has taken that role in helping junior linebacker Jordan Wright. Watson talked about how similar of an experience teaching Wright is to how Allen went about helping him as he grew into being a football player, and he is taking that position seriously.
“It kind of feels similar to when Josh (Allen) was a senior. I know how much Josh helped me, and I’m gonna help him as much as I can — telling him what I see in his game and what he can work on,” Watson said. “I think he (Wright) understands the moment.”
You might remember Jordan Wright from the last play in the Belk Bowl this past season, as he returned a fumble for touchdown to end the game:
— Chandler Wilcox (@ChanManSports) December 31, 2019
Stay tuned for more as the Cats ramp up preseason practice.